In this book, the journalist and popular science author Matt Ridley takes a close look at the human genome. Relying mainly on information uncovered by the Human Genome Project and years of genetical research, he presents the "stories" of a couple of dozens of interesting genes, about which science has at least some information. The topics this book talks about are various: instinct, species, stress, diseases and sex. The author also freely gets his hands dirty with highly controversial topics like intelligence, immortality and eugenics. He tries to present the "positive effects" of the genes together with the negative effects (genetic diseases), although IMHO it's clear why diseases get most attention - it's much simpler to note abnormalities in a complex system than to differentiate normally-functioning modules between many people. The book is written very well in most parts, and apart from a few dry sections it's very difficult to put down. The author shares a lot of knowledge and mixes in bits of personal enthusiasm about the main subject, which is nice. I think that prior to reading this book I didn't really grasp just how computer-like we are. How compunational, mechanical is the operation of the genes in building our bodies. Even the division to sub-systems resembles modern engineering practices. The inner workings of our bodies are an amazing aspect of science, unfortunately still much in the dark. Upcoming years will, no doubt, bring a lot of new knowledge. This, of course, is mostly a good thing since we'll be able to understand and hence cure more diseases, and prevent most genetical diseases. But it also entails some controversial consequences, as was demonstrated by the practitioners of eugenics (racial improvement through selective breeding) throughout the 20th century.


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